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August 30, 2016

10 Best India Inspired Collections of The Last Decade

Text by Tanisha Choudhury

From Chanel’s Paris-Bombay to Elie Saab’s 2016 Couture, here are the best collections that were influenced by India

India, with her rich and colourful heritage in terms of textiles, weaves, culture has served as inspiration to international designers for decades. From the opulent fashions of the maharajas to the perceived oriental exoticism of this land and from the colonists view of the Raj to the traveller’s experience of its vivid colours — myriad aspects of the country have led to myriad vibrant collections over the years. As they say, beauty is in the beholder’s eye.

Apart from traditional fashion collections where India may be listed as one of the designer’s official influences that season, there are other ways people are turning to India. One great example of this is Spring/Summer 2015 campaign of the new American brand Trademark. The only Indian connection is the location of the shoot, that was used to create an essence for the brand. Shot brilliantly by Jamie Hawkesworth to look like the holiday photographs of a traveller, the images capture the mood of the so-called ‘real India’.

Below we’ve rounded up the ten best India inspired fashion collections of the last decade:

Hermès

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When: Spring 2008

India story: The collection designed as it was by Jean Paul Gaultier, expectedly bordered on campiness, with the models sporting turbans made of lamé, crocodile skin and silk. The two versions of India represented here were colonial India and India as an exotic land.

Verve verdict: While we think that the two versions of India that the brand represented were rather cliched, we have to say that the clothes themselves (removed from the paraphernalia of styling) were unmistakably luxurious and chic. The colonial elements including Jodhpur pants and riding boots tied in quite well with Hermès’ legacy as an equestrian brand. We also loved their uber-luxe versions of the Nehru jacket that came in a variety of colours, including Indian jewel tones.

Alexander McQueen

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When: Fall 2008

India story: Inspired partly by Mcqueen’s visit to India and partly by British colonialism, his collection was based on an Alice In Wonderland-esque story of his own creation. It was a marriage of his gothic sensibility and impeccable British tailoring with details from Indian couture lavished on.

Verve verdict: The combination of British and Indian influences, specifically the royalty of both countries, was a surprising one. From Victorian and Elizabethan silhouettes to the ornamentation of Indian maharajas, Mcqueen’s collection was dark and romantic. The use of Indian jewellery on gothic looks, sari silks to create dresses, embroidery of Indian motifs like the peacock on frothy gowns among other details, created a breathtaking fantasy. One of the most unique and sweepings stories the fashion world had witnessed in a while.

Isabel Marant

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When: Spring 2016

India story: This isn’t the first time Marant has looked to India for inspiration, and much like the last time, her influences aren’t restricted to the Indian subcontinent. This time around, her travels to India led her to mix rich, colourful textiles from Rajasthan with her boho-luxe aesthetic.

Verve verdict: She is known to perfectly mix her insouciant Parisienne vibe with that of a bohemian globetrotter and this season was no different. The woven textiles of Rajasthan were used alongside chunky jewellery, laid-back harem pants, silver jackets and pants, and beaded embroidery. The Indian fabrics appeared to have been picked up her gypsy traveller on her many voyages and seamlessly adopted into her wardrobe. We especially love the Rajasthani menswear inspired top worn with slouchy silver pants.

Elie Saab Couture

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When: Spring 2016

India story: Supposedly inspired by the wardrobe of an aristocrat visiting colonial India, the collection had Indian and Edwardian influences in equal measure. Sari-inspired silhouettes were followed by high-necked shirts, Nehru collars by caped gowns.

Verve verdict: The clothes were feminine, intricate and beautiful, all staple features of Elie Saab couture. We like that the clothes themselves went beyond just an outsider’s view of India under the British Raj, even though the story implied otherwise. The opulence and richness of Indian embroidery and embellishment found a fitting place in an impeccably handcrafted couture collection.

Marchesa

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When: Spring 2013

India story: From Indian drapes mimicking the sari and long, full skirts to the use of brocade and the jewelled and gilded embellishments on clothes, it was a literal inspiration that used the best of India’s sartorial traditions with a touch of Bollywood OTT-ness thrown in.

Verve verdict: The collection seamlessly blended its Indian influences with the dreamy Marchesa aesthetic. The Indian touch was also visible in the colour palette that included deep red, rani pink, sunset orange, pale green and inky blue. While a few looks were a bit OTT and just didn’t hit the mark, the draped sari-like wispy gowns and the South Indian mundu-inspired white and gold dress were our favourites.

Vera Wang

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When: Spring 2013

India story: The India connect of this collection was anything but literal. Her subtle nods to the country included borrowing brocades, ikats and delicate embroidery and ornamentation. She stayed away from appropriating sari drapes and the typical OTT headgear westerners associate with the country. Her Indian inspiration was also seen in the rich colour palette that included jewel tones like amethyst, sapphire, emerald and gold.

Verve verdict: This India inspired collection was a tasteful and respectful one. While the textiles were Indian, the silhouettes, cuts and drapes — all strengths of Vera Wang — were distinctly modern and western. Clean lines and a balance between feminine and androgynous looks made it a refreshing take on the subcontinent.

Stella Jean

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When: Fall 2015

India story: The designer has been known to pick different geographical locations to borrow prints, colours and atmosphere. She also loves mixing multi-cultural influences to create an eclectic aesthetic. For this collection, a part of her inspiration was the Himalayas. Deliberately avoiding an imperialist gaze, she was instead taken by Indian kitsch. The colourful and wide-ranging motifs included everything from Indian architecture and autorickshaws to decorated Himayalan yaks, barbershops and pom poms.

Verve verdict: The Himalayan influences were blended superbly with her usual Haitian and Italian ones. Silhouettes included staples of western wear, especially of Stella Jean — dresses, balloon skirts, slouchy pants, knits and long coats. It was a wild, colourful, eccentric explosion of a collection that saw some deft layering of winterwear — another feature perhaps borrowed from Himalayan sherpas.We especially love the whimsical use of pom poms.

Chanel

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When: Pre-fall 2012

India story: Lagerfeld’s pre-fall collection titled Paris-Bombay was created with Lagerfeld never having visited India. Hence, the whiff of fantasy and India’s perceived exoticism was present throughout. Trying to capture the excesses of the Maharajas in the last days of the Raj, the collection tried to recreate the decadence of the rich few who over-indulged themselves even in the midst of political chaos. However, this wasn’t the political comment Lagerfeld was making. His aim in fact, was to subvert the assumption that intricate handworked embroidery can only be found in India — after all, all the lavish and detailed ‘India-inspired’ work in this collection was done at the Chanel ateliers in Paris.

Verve verdict: This was a collection of creative excesses – tweed jackets dripping with pearls, dresses worn over boots that worked as leggings, draped skirts, raw silk and brocade tunics and pants, and heaps of gold and silver embroidery. While not all the Indian jewellery worked for us, we particularly liked the looks that paired Parisian-chic dressing with the intricate jewellery. We also like the pops of rani pink, that quintessentially Indian colour.

Naeem Khan

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When: Fall 2012

India story: The starting point for Naeem Khan’s glamorous India-inspired collection was the bindi.The collection used the bindi as a motif and reimagined Indian body art on gowns. The tools he used to recreate the effect of body art were beads, threadwork and appliques, and a lot of paisleys. A few of the silhouettes too resembled Indian kurtas.

Verve verdict: We love that the designer was inspired by such a specific element or tradition from India and that he used it only as a starting point and not literally. Although most Naeem Khan collections are uber-glamorous, we appreciate that this India-inspired one, which could easily be made OTT, had a restrained glamour and sophistication.

Louis Vuitton Menswear

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When: Spring 2015

India story: Kim Jones, a globetrotter along with being a designer, visited India and dedicated his Spring 2015 collection to the country. He was inspired by the opulence of Indian maharajas and their palaces. In fact, the palace guards and their uniforms were a big influence on the military-style pieces in the collection. The Indian influence could also be seen in his use of mirror-work and in the detailing like the buttons and collars, and choice of fabrics.

Verve verdict: His use of Indian colours like narangi orange and rani pink added a vibrancy to the collection. His keen traveller’s eye seemed to have picked up the best of Indian influences and used them to create a connoisseur and traveller-friendly set of clothing and accessories.

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